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Texas Police Brutality and Police Misconduct

Page 7


  04/07/05- Texas - A former Lubbock Police officer avoided jail time, but he must surrender his peace officer license.

 In a plea bargain, officer Blake Littlejohn pleaded guilty to harassment. He was originally charged with a violation of civil rights. The charge stemmed from a traffic stop last year where a witness says a 20-year-old woman was escorted to Littlejohn's patrol car, and performed a sexual act at his request.

*********

 April 19, 2005 - Police officer Tyrone Hamilton Cross, 44, is charged with one misdemeanor count of prostitution, court records show.

 Cross, an 11-year Houston Police Department veteran assigned to the Fondren station, was released from jail after posting a $1,000 bond.

 A criminal complaint accuses officer Cross of knowingly soliciting someone in a public place to engage in "straight sex for hire." Cross was on duty when he agreed to pay a woman for sexual intercourse Sunday in the 10600 block of Marantha Court in Houston, said Julian Ramirez of the Harris County District Attorney's Public Integrity Division.

Cross was arrested later during his work shift around 9:15 p.m.

Sunday, Ramirez said. He did not know if Cross was in uniform at the time.

 Officer Cross had been the subject of an HPD Internal Affairs' proactive investigation, and his arrest was the result of a sting, Ramirez said. It was unknown today what prompted that proactive investigation, since Houston police have not commented on the case.

The woman Cross is accused of agreeing to pay for sex is not an officer, Ramirez said.

 Cross, of Missouri City, is due to appear in a Harris County court Monday, records show. He could not be reached for comment today, and it is unknown if he has retained a lawyer.

 The HPD had not released any information on the case today, but typically officers are immediately relieved of duty when they are charged with wrongdoing.

******

  03/17/05 - Texas - A former officer of the Willougby Juvenile Detention Center was found guilty Wednesday of two counts of sexual assault and two counts of improper sexual activity with a person in custody.

 David Lewis Riley 37, of Marshall was accused of assaulting a 16-year-old boy at the center. A seven-woman, five-man panel deliberated for an hour before returning the verdict.

Jurors will reconvene today to consider punishment for Riley.

 In his testimony Wednesday, Riley claimed the teenager had asked to assist with housekeeping so he could talk to Riley about the possibility of serving time at a state facility for juvenile offenders.

Riley denied sexual contact with the boy, which the boy said happened in a closed, unwatched portion of Willoughby.

 Although center director Sheryl Eagleton testified on Tuesday that she had instructed employees to stay away from the area after hours, Riley said he and the teen were cleaning staff offices there.

 He said he and the boy never went into the former dining room, where the boy said Riley assaulted him.

 When he was asked to go to the sheriff's office the next morning, Riley said "I didn't have no earthly idea what it was about. As God is my witness, I did not know what was going on."

 A forensics expert testified earlier Wednesday that DNA from Riley and the boy was present in the teenager's underwear.

 In closing arguments, defense attorney Kelly Pace suggested the boy's briefs were soiled while he was alone in his cell on the night of Nov. 5, 2004, a day before the incident and hours before he reported the incident to another detention officer.

"That's why there was no immediate outcry," Pace said. "He needed time to set it up."

Pace said Riley's DNA could have come through "sweat to hand."

 Riley said he sweats profusely while he works and "it was hot in the laundry room that night." Riley testified that he and the boy had loaded and unloaded clothing into washers and dryers together and his hands had touched the boy's.

 In his closing remarks, District Attorney Joe Black reminded jurors that the forensics expert had testified that it was unlikely the quantity of Riley's DNA material found in the boy's underwear could have come from "casual contact." The expert also said she couldn't determine how the DNA material got into the underwear.

 "It's easy for us to Monday night quarterback everything that happened," Black told the jury. And, pointing in the direction of the boy seated in the courtroom, he added: "It's hard for him to come up here and say someone caused him to have a homosexual experience ... because of the scrutiny, bias and prejudice that exists."

*****

    January 14, 2005 - DALLAS -- A Flower Mound police officer is off the force after he was arrested for indecent exposure.

 Investigators said police officer Jason Taylor exposed himself to a woman in a gas station parking lot last month when he was not on duty.

 Officer Taylor is out of jail on bond after his arrest on Wednesday.

**********

   01/14/05 - HOUSTON - The results of an internal investigation are in and now a La Porte police officer is on administrative leave.

The police officer, Carl Davis, is accused of choking and punching Alaina Wolfe.

 She claims he gave her two black eyes back in December and now a second woman has come forward with new allegations.

"He pulled my hands behind my back and that's when he banged me against the car," said alleged victim Anita Anderson.

 Anderson says the incident began after she was pulled over in May of 2003 and demanded to know why she was being stopped. In addition to shoving her against the car, she says the officer sprayed her with mace.

 Officer Davis has been with the La Porte police department for the past four years. The case could be headed to a grand jury.

*****

    Jan. 8, 2005 - A former deputy constable who owns a men's clothing store faces up to four years in prison after he was arrested in an undercover operation last month and accused of buying "stolen" designer suits from a former Houston Oiler.

John Lee Jr., 53, a former Harris County Precinct 1 deputy constable, was charged Dec. 16 with felony theft and evading arrest, said Dan McAnulty, captain investigator for the Harris County

District Attorney's Office's public integrity division.

"These clothes were presented to him as stolen, and he bought them," McAnulty said. "He paid $400 for them. That's ten cents on the dollar. You can make a profit on that."

 McAnulty said investigators found several other expensive items from Neiman Marcus and other stores when they searched Lee's store, Trading Fair, 5515 South Loop East.

Precinct 1 Chief Deputy J.C. Mosier said Lee was fired after McAnulty notified his office about the two-week undercover investigation.

 Lee, who had worked for the constable's office for about a month before he was fired, had previously worked as a Precinct 7 deputy constable and was retired from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

 McAnulty said the district attorney's office set up the sting after former Houston Oiler running back Adger Armstrong, who had been arrested in November on shoplifting charges, told police he had been selling his stolen goods to Lee.

"They had been hitting various stores," McAnulty said. "He claimed he was selling them to a deputy."

 In exchange for his cooperation in the sting, Armstrong, who played for the Oilers in the 1970s, agreed to a plea bargain in which he pleaded to a lesser offense and received five years' probation.

Lee agreed to meet Armstrong in a restaurant parking lot to buy merchandise he believed was taken from a Nordstrom's department store.

When authorities attempted to arrest Lee in the parking lot, police said, Lee fled a short distance in his vehicle before he was stopped.

*******

   12/13/04 - LA PORTE, TX - A woman says a beating in jail left her battered and bruised. And she says it wasn't a fellow inmate who threw the punches. Delena Wolfe says it was members of the La Porte Police Department.

 Wolfe admits she was less than cooperative when she was arrested on Saturday. But she says that does not justify what she had to go through once she got to jail.

 "The last thing I remember is being choked," recalled Wolfe. "Then cops yelling for him to stop."

Still wearing her hospital identification bracelet, Wolfe talked about an afternoon she'll never forget.

 She said, "My son will have to come home every single day and look at my face like this. My Christmas pictures this year will have my face like this, for nothing. I feel like it was for nothing."

It all happened Saturday. Wolfe had gotten into a verbal altercation with her neighbor. When police were called in, Wolfe reportedly exchanged words with the officer.

 That's when she was arrested for disorderly conduct. But it was at jail where Wolfe says she encountered the trauma.

 Wolfe told Eyewitness News, "I was choked. Apparently I was punched in my eye. I was hit repeatedly in my head."

Wolfe alleges a very large police officer assaulted her as he tried to put her in a cell. She claims the officer punched her in the face and choked her until she blacked out.

 Chief Reff says his department has opened up an internal investigation and that the district attorney is involved. He says while no conclusions have been made, the allegation of choking is troubling.

"I want him to think about how he would feel if someone done this to his wife or his daughter," said Wolfe.

 We should note that the police officer in question has filed aggravated assault charges against Wolfe. Police have a video tape taken at the time of the incident, but that tape has not been made public at this time.

*************

   Aug. 27, 2004 - The Houston Police Department has discovered evidence from thousands of cases that was improperly tagged and lost in its property room, Chief Harold Hurtt said Thursday, suggesting that problems with handling evidence may go back 25 years.

 The evidence was contained in 280 mislabeled boxes that were found in the department's property room last August. But the boxes sat unopened for a year, even as an ongoing Harris County District Attorney's Office effort to retest DNA from 379 cases stalled because of missing evidence in 20 cases.

Investigators began opening the boxes last week and found an array of evidence that ranged from a fetus and human body parts to clothes and a bag of Cheetos.

 The boxes were labeled with the numbers of individual cases. Now, HPD officials said, it appears that evidence from as many as 8,000 cases, from 1979 to 1991, was packed into the 280 cartons.

 The discovery, the latest in a long list of problems at HPD's crime lab, may move officials closer to an independent investigation of the entire operation.

 For the first time, Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal was among those seeking a full-scale independent investigation of the crime lab. Rosenthal had resisted previous calls for such a probe.

******

   July 6, 2004 -- The preliminary results show Jesus Manuel Cervantes died of traumatic positional asphyxiation. But the Socorro Police Department's interim chief defends his fellow officers.

 Thirty-seven year old Jesus Manuel Cervantes left three children behind. As we've reported, his wife says Cervantes was a victim of police brutality.

 Grace Arroyos, "I saw my husband. I was at the light and I saw his face and he looked scared, he had fear in his eyes."

 Socorro Police officers say, Cervantes had called 911 about 45 times in the last six months. The calls varied from family fights to drug overdoses.

 Sgt. Manuel Ponce, "He became uncontrollable, dangerous, she's afraid of him. Several times when arrived at home we'd leave with 4 or 5 knives.

She'd tell us to take them."

 His wife, Grace Arroyos admits her husband called police often because he had a drug problem. But she says when police arrived he was always calm.

 Ponce, "He tried pushing officers on to the street. At one point tried to grab an officer's weapon, so it turned into an issue where we're no longer here to protect him, we're here to protect ourselves."

Sgt. Manuel Ponce says the man became irate and officers had to use the necessary force to calm him down.

Ponce, "Whenever they put him on the ground he would push himself up with all four officers on him."

 Grace believes the force those officers used killed her husband. She believes witnesses will attest to that.

Arroyos, "If we don't speak up now they're going to do this to somebody you love, don't let it happen to you. We can change this right now."

His wife says the reason Cervantes had a lot of knives around the house is because he used to practice martial arts.

 The El Paso County Sheriffs Department is still waiting for a final toxicology report. The four officers involved are on paid administrative leave. And the department is seeking counseling for them.

Sgt. Ponce says an internal investigation has been launched to go along with the Sheriff's investigation.

*******

   April 2, 2004 - Claudia Ledezma said she was driving home late one night when she saw the sheriff's car behind her, then beside her, then behind her with it's lights on.

The reason given for the stop was a license plate light that didn't work.

 Only Ledezma said it did and still does. She claimed what happened next when seven-year-veteran Deputy Donald Hess approached her car was even worse.

 "He told me, 'Are you married?' and I look him and he continued, 'Your phone number?' Ledezma recalled.

 I told him why? He told (me), get out the car damn spic' and he start to talk very quick," she said.

 A friend who was driving in another car also backs up Ledezma's story that the Deputy looked in her blouse and touched her. "I see that she is out of the car with her hands on the car like this and he was lifting her shirt," said Marely Rios.

 One attorney calls it gross injustice. "It was a clear case of taking advantage of somebody he thought was a victim," said Joel Salazar.

 Ledezma was arrested for felony evading arrest. She admitted she didn't stop right away but says she wanted to stop under a streetlight. A grand jury decided to drop the case.

**********

   A Fort Worth police sergeant has won back his job after being fired in October over allegations of misconduct and of falsifying overtime that he charged against a traffic-related grant.

 In addition to reinstatement, Sgt. Jon Fahrenthold, a 21-year police veteran, will receive full back pay, according to the ruling by hearing examiner Bill Detwiler.

 Fahrenthold, 48, was grant administrator for the city's Strategic Traffic Enforcement Program from January 2000 to April 5, 2003.

Fahrenthold, named the Texas Department of Transportation's officer of the year in 2002 for grant administration, was fired Oct. 16. He was accused of failing to follow grant guidelines and maintain proper records.

******

    March 11th, 2005 - Lawton, TX -- A Lawton police officer will stand trial for shooting an unarmed man during a traffic stop two-and-a-half weeks ago. Things didn't go as they did for Aguilera in another shooting 4- years-ago. In that case, he was cleared of shooting and killing an unarmed man in April, 2001. This time, Officer Aguilera will be prosecuted for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and that decision could have everything to do with findings by investigators that Aguilera shot an unarmed man after firing off two rounds from his pistol.

 As Officer Anthony Aguilera walked into a Comanche County courtroom, opinions on his guilt or innocence were not in short supply. Lawton attorney Dennis Butler says, "We shouldn`t be here. They should have fired him when he shot the first guy."

 It's the opinion of Comanche County District Attorney Robert Schulte that has the most impact now, though. And, after reviewing a report from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, he has determined this case against Aguilera is quite different than the one 4-years-ago.

 Schulte states, "We have what we feel to be a lawful stop and arrest by this officer. We believe the evidence will show this officer searched the suspect for weapons. So, he knew this individual had no weapons on him when he broke and ran and fled the scene. The law is clear, you do not use deadly force or potentially deadly force in this circumstance."

 Lawton Police Chief Harold Thorne says, "Anything that occurs in the police department and reflects possibly adversely on it, does bother me, as it would anybody."

 Just weeks out from his retirement, Lawton Police Chief Harold Thorne says an internal investigation will not come until after Aguilera's possible trial. As far as whether Aguilera is expected to talk before then, Richard Goss with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation states, "He has retained the right to counsel, and his counsel prefers he not speak."

Goss says Aguilera has not talked to investigators from the beginning.

 Again, he is charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. A preliminary hearing is set for April 25th at 9am in the Comanche County courthouse. If convicted, he could serve up to 10 years in prison.

 The person doing who was shot, Jesse Robinson is now out of the hospital and may be prosecuted later for an alleged DUI. The problem is, prosecutors need Officer Aguilera's testimony to do that. When questioned about reports that Aguilera first fired his taser at Robinson before firing his pistol, District Attorney Schulte said today, "No comment."

*********

    02/08/05 - Texas - A former Miami police officer has been found guilty in the beating death of a sheriff's deputy after a night of drinking while both were serving as reservists in Texas.

 Dennis Benitez, 31, of Pembroke Pines was found guilty Friday in the Jan. 3, 2004, killing of Robert Torres Reid, a deputy from Indianapolis. The men were friends and reservists on active duty at Lackland Air Force Base.

 Benitez worked for the Miami department from May 1999 to November 2000 when he was forced to resign following unsatisfactory evaluations during his probationary employment.

 Following his conviction, Benitez hung his head and put his arm around his attorney as Judge Mark Luitjen polled jurors. The ex-officer had to steady himself before deputies handcuffed him. The penalty phase was scheduled to begin Monday. Benitez faces up to life in prison.

The defendant, victim and another man testifying for the prosecution, Omar Romero, drank at two downtown nightclubs, downing several shots and mixed drinks until about 2 a.m., according to testimony.

 About an hour later, Reid was attacked as Benitez was driving the men back to the base in his Ford Explorer, according to testimony and police reports. Reid, a front-seat passenger, suffered a cracked skull and died less than two hours later.

The case was largely based on the testimony of Romero, 21, who said he saw Benitez use what looked like a tire tool to strike his victim inside the vehicle.

*************

  November 23rd, 2004 - DALLAS -- Two police commanders who oversaw a narcotics division that wrongly jailed Mexican immigrants and others based on fake evidence have been punished, becoming the first high-level officers held accountable for the 2001 scandal.

 Assistant Chief Dora Saucedo-Falls was demoted to lieutenant Monday. Deputy Chief John Martinez also faced a demotion, but announced his early retirement.

 Until the action by Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle, only detective-level officers had taken the brunt of the punishment. Two detectives were fired.

"I made this decision ... that there was responsibility up the chain of command and the only appropriate remedy would be these demotions,'' Kunkle said. "The message is that we're all accountable for what occurs under our command.''

 Saucedo-Falls, the department's highest-ranking Hispanic woman, oversaw the narcotics division in 2001. Martinez had overseen the division when the problems began and reported to Saucedo-Falls.

 A narcotics detective and a former officer were charged in April with evidence tampering in the scandal, in which confidential informants framed dozens of people with billiards chalk bundled like real drugs.

The demotions come about a month after two lawyers hired by the city to investigate found that lax supervision in the narcotics division contributed to the false arrests.

As a result of the report, the Police Department opened 70 criminal cases and more than 50 administrative cases, all of which are pending.

*********

  Dec. 11, 2004 - NORTH RICHLAND HILLS -- A North Texas police chief who was stopped for driving erratically in his personal vehicle was suspended for three days.

 North Richland Hills Police Chief Tom Shockley apologized for the Monday incident, saying he had taken a muscle relaxant for back pain on an empty stomach.

"The city has been very understanding and very fair in this situation," Shockley said Friday. "I really wasn't aware that it had that strong of an effect on me."

A police officer from Shockley's department pulled him over but didn't arrest him or issue a citation. Shockley, who is scheduled for back surgery next week, was suspended for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

"If average citizens are subject to certain scrutinies, then public officials should be subject to them as well," she said. "If that had been me stopped by the officer, I probably would have been arrested."

But Mayor Oscar Trevino said he believes Shockley simply made a poor decision.

 "This is not something we are hoping to hide or to sweep under the table, but I have a lot of confidence in the chief," he said.

North Richland Hills is located about seven miles northeast of Fort Worth.

**********

    Sept. 27, 2004 - A former Houston police officer was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to taking part in a $50,000 drug deal while on duty and wearing his uniform.

Gilberto Zertuche, 43, was armed and providing protection for a deal in which a kilogram of cocaine 2.2 pounds and 100 pounds of marijuana changed hands at an apartment in Humble on Feb. 24, Harris County prosecutors said.

 The arrest resulted from a sting operation set up by the Houston Police Department's Internal Affairs Division. Undercover police targeted the 18-year HPD veteran after receiving a tip.

 Zertuche was not a buyer or a seller, but he oversaw the transaction, helping to weigh the drugs and count the money exchanged, said Assistant District Attorney Julian Ramirez.

"He was in uniform and he was putting at ease any fears that the drug dealers which in this case were undercover cops might have had that they were going to be robbed or that something was going to go down," Ramirez said.

In return, Zertuche was paid about $5,000, Ramirez said.

 Zertuche was taken into custody Monday morning after pleading guilty to aggravated delivery of cocaine and delivery of marijuana. He will not be eligible for parole for at least 10 years.

He could have faced up to life in prison if convicted in a trial, which was scheduled to start Monday before state District Judge Carol Davies.

 Zertuche was arrested immediately after the drug deal, shortly after 7 p.m. outside an apartment in the 400 block of South Bender in Humble, police said. He was on duty but away from his assigned post with HPD's Marshals Division, which oversees municipal courts.

Zertuche initially was relieved of duty with pay but was terminated in April, police said.

*****************

   Aug. 31, 2004 - Three cops accused of taking bribes plead guilty Five Houston Police officers accused of soliciting bribes from cantina owners were originally charged with engaging in organized crime, a felony. Four of the five have pleaded guilty to official oppression, a misdemeanor, and the fifth is expected to plead today.

David Gamboa, 45, received 120 days in the Harris County jail.

Rolando Cruz, 36, received 120 days in the Harris County jail.

Freddie Gonzales, 42, received deferred adjudication with two years probation.

Javier Gomez, 41, pleaded Aug. 2 and is serving a 90-day sentence in the Harris County jail.

 Salve R. Ramirez, 46, was scheduled to be tried separately later this month, but he is expected to appear in court today and plead guilty.

 Three former Houston police officers accused of taking cash bribes from cantina owners in exchange for overlooking criminal activity pleaded guilty Tuesday, abruptly ending a corruption trial that was expected to last up to seven weeks.

 The guilty pleas came in the trial's second week after a nightclub owner testified last week that one of the officers asked for a $50 per night cash payment and promised to provide "protection" and tips about any upcoming law enforcement raids.

 The officers previously said that they were working second jobs as security guards for the club owners, which is permitted under Houston Police Department rules.

After lengthy plea negotiations, prosecutors agreed to drop the charges of engaging in organized crime, punishable by up to life in prison. The three officers pleaded guilty to official oppression, a misdemeanor.

 State District Judge Denise Collins sentenced two of the officers, David Gamboa, 45; and Rolando Cruz, 36, to 120 days in the Harris County jail. The third officer, Freddie Gonzales, 42, received deferred adjudication with two years probation.

 Thee three must also permanently surrender their state license that permits them to work as a police officer in Texas.

 The three were among five who were charged in July of 2003, accused of shaking down up to 40 cantina owners in the northern and eastern parts of the city.

 According to a 10-month investigation by HPD's internal affairs division, the officers wore their uniforms and visited the bars on Friday and Saturday nights, usually staying inside for several minutes at each bar, investigators said.

 A fourth officer, Salve R. Ramirez, 46, was scheduled to be tried separately later this month, but he is expected to appear in court today and plead guilty to the same misdemeanor charge, Storts said.

 The case has focused attention on HPD's policy allowing officers to work after hours in bars, a practice unique among the nation's largest cities. Police Chief Harold Hurtt recently said he will allow officers to continue providing security at nightclubs but is calling for closer supervision of their work.

 Another officer initially charged, Javier Gomez, 41, is serving a 90-day sentence in the Harris County jail after pleading guilty on Aug. 2 to a misdemeanor charge of official oppression.

 The Houston police department fired the five officers in December, saying they refused to cooperate with an internal investigation.

**********

  May 24th, 2004 - FORT WORTH, TX -- An unintentional movement of police officer Ramon Ortega's left hand may be the key factor that caused the grievous wounding of Eric Childress as Ortega tried to handcuff him last year, according to a report from the Fort Worth police investigation of the incident.

 "The handgun likely discharged, due to an unconscious sympathetic reflex from the left hand of Officer Ortega, as he reached to handcuff the right hand of Eric Childress."

 The report also shows that in interviews with detectives, Ortega, who was a new Tarrant County Hospital District police officer, told them he was not sure if one of his fingers hit the trigger of the Glock 23C .40-caliber gun.

 Patrick Woodson, Childress' attorney, said he is sure that Ortega violated his client's constitutional rights and used excessive force in unnecessary actions that resulted in the April 12, 2003, incident. The assertions are central to a lawsuit naming Ortega, the hospital district and the gun's maker, Glock, as defendants. Immunities from lawsuits that could be claimed by local governmental entities and their employees cannot be claimed in this case, he said.

 "We also made a state law claim. Counties and cities and state agencies are immune from suit unless under limited circumstances. The limited circumstances in this case are the use of personal property; this is the handgun itself."

 Childress was struck by a shot from Ortega's police-issued sidearm after Ortega, who was off-duty but in uniform, stopped the minivan he was driving and approached Childress on a dark stretch of White Settlement Road about 10:40 p.m. that day.

 Ortega told police that Childress was in the road and seemed dazed. He said he thought Childress may have been impaired by drugs or alcohol. He was worried Childress could be hit by a car, the report said.

 The report mentions that about the same time that Ortega stopped in the parking lot of the Tres Joses restaurant, a second, unidentified driver had also stopped and screamed" that she had almost hit Childress.

 Ortega has said to investigators that he found Childress dressed in all black, including black gloves and a long black overcoat, on a warm night. Ortega has also said that Childress moved his hands toward his coat pockets. Ortega, who was in uniform, drew his gun, ordered him to lie face down on the ground and handcuffed him, the report said.

The gun went off as Ortega was cuffing Childress, who was 19 at the time.

 Childress maintains that he did not move his hands toward his pockets and that he made no aggressive moves and was cooperative. There was no reason for Ortega to have Childress lie face down on the ground or handcuff him or for the officer to draw his gun, Woodson said.

 Childress' unusual style of dress and a bushy, vertically coiffed hairstyle likely prompted an unwarranted response by Ortega, he said.

"Had it been me out there that night, I wouldn't have ended up being shot in the back," Woodson said.

As for Glock's part in the lawsuit, Woodson said there are questions about the pistol's safety system and that the gun can easily be fired accidentally.

 "The defective design of the product rendered the product unreasonably dangerous and was producing injuries," the suit states.

 The lawsuit seeks an undetermined amount of damages for physical injury to Childress, medical expenses, punitive damages, legal costs and other relief.

****

   May 4, 2004 - SAN ANTONIO -- A woman is suing a San Antonio police officer for $5 million for allegedly injuring and making inappropriate physical contact with the woman during an arrest.

 Eliza Alvorada, the plaintiff, was a passenger in a car that Officer Michael Heim pulled over at a convenience store on Callaghan and Interstate 10 on June 28, 2003.

 According to the lawsuit, Alvorada claims that Heim (pictured, left) threw her against his patrol car.

 Heim's police report states he stopped the car for having no license plate and an expired registration. Heim claims Alvorada tried to interfere during the investigation and arrested her for resisting arrest. Last month, the Bexar County's District Attorney's Office dismissed the charge against Alvorada.

"My general impression of this is (that) this is some kind of 'skank' out at 3 o'clock in the morning who's drunk and wants to interfere," said Barbara Woodward, Heim's wife and attorney.

 Heim has been on medical leave since San Antonio Police Chief Albert Ortiz transferred the officer from the DWI unit to the dispatch center seven months ago. Ortiz ordered Heim not to wear his uniform for his new assignment, which he has not reported to.

*******

  1/29/04 - There's a not guilty verdict in the trial of a Baytown police officer accused of using a taser gun on a suspect.

It took the jury five hours to decide the Baytown officer was not guilty, and he's already back on the job.

 There were hugs and tears when the verdict of not guilty was read. Officer Micah Aldred was visibly weepy, as were his family and some fellow officers. Even though Officer Aldred was found not guilty, he sent word from behind closed doors that he did not want to talk to the media. But the obvious was spoken.

  "We're after the city, the policy-makers, because we do believe it is unconstitutional as applied in this case, and it is a deliberate indifference to the rights and welfare of citizens," said Freeman.

As for Officer Aldred's colleagues from the Baytown Police Department, they said although sometimes it's painful, the system does work.

 Baytown PD Lt David Alford announced, "Effective immediately, upon order of the chief of police, city of Baytown, Officer Micah Aldred returned to full active duty instantly upon this decision."

 As one of the lawyers said, there is going to be a civil trial, but no court date has yet been set.

*****

   November 10, 2003 - HOUSTON Where can you lie, cheat or steal and still keep your job? Or how about repeatedly getting drunk and getting behind the wheel? Or ssaulting your wife or girlfriend? The answer in dozens of cases is the Houston Police Department.

 What happened at an east Houston strip center in the 1000 block of Federal Road the Houston Police top brass calls despicable.

 In the parking lot an HPD officer approached a young female store employee claiming someone complained about her putting flyers on cars. The cop cuffed the girl, wrote her a ticket and according to an internal report 11 News obtained, Officer Jose Gomez "grabbed and kissed (her) on the lips" and asked, "what she had to offer in order to get out of the ticket."

 "There's no excuse for that," says Diane Bossom. "There is no excuse for that." Bossom is with the group Houston Cop Watch, and says there's no excuse why that officer got a 40-day suspension instead of getting fired.

 "They are showing that they cannot police themselves," she says. "It's the fox in charge of the hen house."

 To find out how HPD disciplines its 5,400 officers 11 News examined the history of every cop on the force. More than 13,000 sustained internal affairs complaints. The worst violators were 254 officers who HPD determined and defined as having committed criminal activity.

 "I did not know that we had 250 some odd officers that have been cited for criminal activity," says HPD Executive Assistant Chief Tim Oettmeier. "Yes, that's disturbing." Consider some of the cases.

While on duty one day early in his career Internal Affairs discovered Eldon Harris met some friends at Memorial Park in the wee hours of the morning.

 They drank bourbon and rode golf carts around the course, ramming each other and damaging the carts along the way.

In a report Harris received a 20-day suspension because of "his honesty in admitting his involvement" and a promise to "never again violate the city's trust" in him.

 But records show he went on to violate department rules and regulations several more times. He's since been promoted to lieutenant.

 Officer Lilia Gonzales is a multiple violator. She was arrested for an off-duty accident having a .20 blood alcohol level, twice the legal limit.

But before she could even serve the department's 15-day suspension Internal affairs sustained another case for public intoxication and HPD gave Gonzales 20 days for that.

11 News asked Gonzales how many chances should one get to be drunk and disorderly and still hold a job? Gonzales had nothing to say.

Take the case of Officer Timothy Frantz. Arrested for assaulting his live-in girlfriend he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct and got a four-day suspension.

 Three months later at their west Houston apartment it happened again. Frantz repeatedly picked the woman up and dropped her, dragging her inside. For the second go-around HPD gave Frantz 30 days without pay.

"It just doesn't seem like the penalty fits the crime," says Ellen Cohen with the Houston Area Women's Center. "Peace officers carry a weapon, so domestic violence with a peace officer accelerates or exacerbates the problem probably by 100 percent."

How about cases of theft of service or abuse of official capacity?

 Internal affairs found Brian Jordan was skipping out of work early to the extent that Sergeant Jordan admitted it was standard practice for him to work less than eight hours per day. "I don't agree with them saying it's a standard practice," he says. "'Cause it's not a standard practice."

 Jordan told us it happened once or twice and described his 15-day suspension as, "I think it was a little harsh."

But other cases like Mario Gomez appear to be outright double dipping.

Internal affairs examined payroll records at his extra job in the Medical Center. Its report states "on more than 30 occasions" Officer Gomez

"received pay from the City of Houston while simultaneously working at St. Luke's Hospital."

 HPD gave Gomez a 35-day suspension and kept him on the job. But 11 News learned in some cases even if the Chief of Police wanted and ordered an officer gone he couldn't get that cop fired.

*********

   8/29/03 - A police officer accused of having sex with a 15-year-old prostitute was arrested after being indicted on a charge of sexual assault of a child, authorities said.

Jesus "Jesse" Ortega, 28, was booked into Tarrant County Jail on Thursday after the indictment was issued and was immediately released on bail.

 Ortega, who joined the force in May 2000, is on restricted duty but was to be placed on temporary suspension without pay, said Lt. Jesse Hernandez.

Ortega's attorney, Brian Willett, said his client denies the accusation.

 The investigation began in May after police questioned a teenager who was at a park skipping school. She said Ortega, while on duty, paid for sex with her April 15 at a motel, according to police reports.

 Sexual assault of a child is a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison.

 According to court and police records, Ortega and another police officer were arrested in June 2001 and accused of public intoxication after a fight at a bachelor party.

 Investigators found that Ortega had been hit but had not thrown any punches and had been improperly arrested on private property. The public intoxication complaint was dropped, and Ortega was not disciplined

********

   April 26, 2003 - DALLAS, April 25 A decorated undercover narcotics officer has been indicted on charges of civil rights violations and making false statements in connection with a fake drug scheme that landed dozens of innocent people in jail, the Department of Justice announced today.

 The officer, Senior Cpl. Mark Delapaz, was charged with five counts of deprivation of rights under color of law and one count of making false statements to federal officials.

 Corporal Delapaz, who faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted, was free on a personal recognizance bond.

He has been on paid administrative leave since January 2002, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation began investigating how paid confidential informers were able to set up dozens of innocent people, mostly Mexican immigrants, on drug charges. The evidence turned out to be ground gypsum or some other legal substance.

The fake drugs, which were described as cocaine or methamphetamines, were planted on the victims in investigations run by Corporal Delapaz and Officer Eddie Herrera, who is also on paid leave.

 Drug charges against more than 80 people were dismissed by the Dallas County district attorney's office.

 Prosecutors said three ex-informers have pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate civil rights and are cooperating with the F.B.I. investigation.

Police Department officials said Corporal Delapaz would remain on paid leave until the internal affairs division finished its investigation.

*********

    March 11, 2003 - MIAMI -- Sobbing uncontrollably Monday, former Pasco County civil deputy Gloria Mays pleaded guilty to cocaine trafficking and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, her fate sealed by the Miami vice squad.

In a Miami courtroom, Mays, 57, of Dade City said she was no drug dealer.

 But then she apologized and told Circuit Court Judge Pedro P. Echarte Jr. that she would accept a deal for five years less than the minimum 15-year sentence usually allowed by state guidelines.

 Prosecutor Murad Agee said his department recognized that Mays has health problems and was truly sorry, so it allowed her a deal for less than the normal minimum.

"I'm not a cocaine trafficker," Mays sobbed as she stood before the judge.

Then, she said, "I apologize to this court, the state. . . . I'm real sorry . . . I only have a few days left upon this earth."

 She bowed her head, weeping softly at first, then sobbing as the judge asked her a series of standard questions affirming her plea.

Echarte allowed Mays to go home with her family Monday so she can attend a grandchild's baptism in two weeks. He technically sentenced her to 30 years in prison but said that would automatically be reduced to the agreed-upon 10 years if she surrenders to prison officials by 9 a.m. March 26.

Outside the courtroom, Mays sobbed more and was mobbed by friends and family. Through her family, she declined to comment.

 Echarte warned Mays that any deal would be off the table once a trial started.

 Agee said the state had a solid case, capturing Mays on audio and video tape as she delivered $19,000 for a kilogram, or about 2.2 pounds, of cocaine on Jan. 20, 2001, in a Miami McDonald's parking lot.

 Agee never had to use the tapes he held in his hand during the hearing, but transcripts of police depositions in Mays' court file described an iron-clad case against her.

 Soler's partner, Detective Jorge Colina, said in his deposition that the police in Miami traced Mays right the first call. They learned that she was a civil deputy who served subpoenas for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, so they called detectives there. Mays, a 16-year Sheriff's Office veteran, resigned three months after her arrest.

"Pasco County detectives had advised that, apparently, she was someone whom they had suspected to be involved in drug transactions," Colina testified. "The information that they received was that on Saturdays she would travel down to Miami to purchase cocaine to take it back up there and deliver it to someone else."

Two days after Mays' first call, Soler and his partner met Mays about 9 a.m. in a predetermined McDonald's parking lot. "We immediately made eye-to-eye contact and she walked toward me," Soler said.

 They hugged in greeting. Colina said he thought it was weird the way Mays and the two with her, Joe Nathan Vaughn and Linda Scott, were so friendly.

 Soler and Colina said they showed Mays the cocaine, wrapped in plastic and hidden in a cooler in his trunk. She asked whether it was any good.

"We told her if she wanted to test it, and she said, no, that she didn't need to test it because she didn't do drugs," Soler said.

 The deal done, Soler closed the trunk and walked away, the signal to waiting police. Officers swooped in and arrested Mays, Scott and Vaughn.

 Vaughn, 50, was allowed to plead guilty to trafficking a lesser amount of cocaine because he was only a bit player, Agee said. He was sentenced to 21/2 years in prison.

Charges against Scott, 47, were later dropped when investigators determined she was not part of the plot. In her deposition, she said she thought she was on a ride to visit a sick relative with Mays, her close friend.

"First of all, if I would have known that somebody was going to be that stupid to come down here and meet with somebody they never met before, I wouldn't have been in that car," Scott said. "That was the most stupidest thing I ever heard.

"You know what, we (are) blessed they were undercover, because if it had been somebody else, all of us could have gotten killed. Every last one of us could have gotten our heads blown off over some foolishness."

Agee said the case was one of the best-prepared cases he has ever prosecuted. Still, he said, seeing someone older and obviously ashamed at what they had done made sending Mays to prison difficult.

***

   April 2002 - Austin council rejects open, independent and permanent oversightOn March 21 the Austin City Council rejected two charter amendments, both recommended unanimously by the city charter review commission, that would have created open, independent and permanent police oversight for the capital city.

 Of the amendments, one would have placed the newly established Police Monitor and police oversight board in the city charter and granted the city council appointment power, while the other would have opened records about police misconduct.

 ACLU led the charge to for reform thanks to last-minute postcard, email alerts and extensive flyering by volunteers around town, the Austin City Council received more than 300 constituent contacts before the vote urging them to strengthen police oversight.

 The Council rejected the first amendment on an independent and permanent monitor 3-4, with Council members Slusher, Wynn, Thomas and Mayor Garcia voting Council members Griffith, Alvarez and Goodman voted for a watered down version of the amendment. Thanks to an obvious lack of council support, the second one never came up for a vote.

 El Paso deputies arrested in plot to kill federal witnessThree El Paso Sheriffs Department deputies, Jaime Silva, Roberto Velazquez, and Carlos Jaquez, were indicted in late February for conspiracy to murder a witness in a federal drug case according to the El Paso Times.

 The witness was to testify against alleged drug dealer Marco Antonio Blancas on federal drug, hostage and money-laundering charges.

The three men were not members of the El Paso County Sheriffs Officers Association, which announced in a press release that neither it nor the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas would provide the men legal assistance.

 Baytown car video shows in-custody beating deathA video installed in compliance with Texas new racial profiling law captured the beating death of legal immigrant Luis Torres by Baytown PD in late January. The department released the video to the public after open records requests by the Baytown Sun and other Houston media.

 In a surreal twist, as the officers took Luis Torres down and began what would become a deadly struggle, the Jimi Hendrix tune Are You Experienced played ominously in the background, even as officers Micah Aldred, Bert Dillow and Sgt. Rodney Evans subjected Mr. Torres to the dinal experience of his life..

 In addition to the fine Sun coverage, The Texas Observer published a cover story on the subject in March. The video is available on line at http://police.baytown.org/Torres-Audio-Video.html.

 Mr. Torres was extremely ill and disoriented, but the video shows him calmly speaking and cooperating with officers; he clearly does nothing to provoke them before an officer leg-whipped his feet out from under him, knocking him to the ground. Torres did struggle as officers subdued him.

 One officer could be heard to say, Put your knee on his neck. After he was handcuffed, the officers continued to pummel Mr. Torres into submission.

 As soon as the officers realized Torres was turning colors, they attempted to resuscitate him, but not before exclaiming aloud their fear that they were not current on their union dues, which would entitle them to free, aggressive legal representation.

 Even before the investigation had begun, Baytown interim Police Chief Byron Jones said he believed the officers followed proper procedure. And Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal has announced he will not ask the grand jury to indict the officers.

 Perry reins in narcotics task forcesAfter a string of scandals beginning in Tulia, Texas, Governor Rick Perry in January ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety to begin monitoring the states 49 regional narcotics task forces the first push for increased oversight of these secretive pseudo-agencies.

 Under the new rules, these task forces will be overseen by DPS regional captains, who will approve interrogation of underage informants, conducting undercover drug buys and operating outside their jurisdiction.

 DPS will keep closer tabs on labs used for drug enforcement, and maintain a database of rogue cops so they don’t just float from task force to task force.

The governors office even questioned whether grants will continue to be given to task forces that have large sums available to them from asset seizures. Fort Worth, Abilene, and some other PDs have threatened to pull out of the task forces if the financing rules are changed.

 NAACP protests Irving shootingThe NAACP is questioning the Irving PDs use of force after a January drug raid in which officers shot Benjamin Rice of Dallas nine times, killing him. "He needed to be arrested, but he didn't need to be shot down like an animal," Anthony Bond, president of the Irving NAACP told The Dallas Morning News.

 Police said Rice pointed a gun at them before they opened fire. But two female civilian witnesses in the room said that while there was a gun there, Rice never upholstered it. They said when police entered the room Rice raised his hands and said Please don’t shoot.

 Foul-mouthed Bryan cop reinstatedLast year this column reported Bryan police officer Darrell Fikes was fired for an expletive-filled slur against a motorist he stopped on a training run with a rookie officer in his charge. Fikes insulted the Hispanic motorists mother in an attempt to determine whether the man spoke English. Bryan PD Chief Ken Burton ordered him fired.

 But Bryan is a civil service city and predictably an arbitrator overturned the chiefs decision in March. Chief Burton said that, regardless of the arbitrators decision, he would terminate an officer again for the same behavior.

 Daingerfield jailer firedA Morris County jailer was charged with violating an inmates civil rights after a female inmate accused him of sexual assault. Wesley Kyle Harrison, 21, was arrested and fired March 21, the same day the inmate made the complaint. He’d worked at the jail for only five months at the time of the incident.

 Harrison’s father, former Morris County Sheriffs deputy Billy Mack Harrison works as a criminal investigator for the Ark-La-Tex Drug Task Force in Hughes Springs.

 Fort Worth pays in hog-tying deathThe City of Fort Worth agreed to pay $750,000 to the family of Luis Enrique Hernandez, who died in police custody on New Years Day in 1999, reported The Fort Worth Star Telegram.

 Hernandez died of cardiac arrest and choking on vomit after police first maced him then hog-tied him a restraint method forbidden by Fort Worth PD procedures. The medical examiner ruled the hog-tying contributed to his death.

  Then-Chief Thomas Windham fired the five officers involved, claiming they hid behind the so-called blue Curtains or code of silence. Windham told the Star Telegram that the death, coupled with the cover-up, is the most serious thing that has happened in the Police Department since I’VE been here, and it has the appearance of a classic case of serious police misconduct. (Windham died January 2000.)

 Entire Poth Police Department indictedThe Poth police chief and his only paid officer were arrested in March, indicted on charges stemming from an allegedly fraudulent insurance claim. Grand jurors indicted Chief Reynaldo Guterrez Jr. and Cpl. Clint Wilson on one count of insurance fraud and two counts of tampering with a witness.

*****************

   Dec. 2002 - Two Houston police officers were indicted Friday for their roles in the sweeping late-night arrests of more than 270 people outside a Kmart in west Houston.

A Harris County grand jury handed up indictments charging Capt. Mark A. Aguirre and Sgt. Ken Wenzel each with five counts of official oppression in the Aug. 18 raid. 

The two officers will fight the charges, said their attorney, Terry W. Yates.

"It means we're going to have a battle," he said.

 Aguirre was in charge of the raid, which originally was planned to crack down on drag racers. When police were unable to find any drag racing, however, they swept through the parking lot in the 8400 block of Westheimer and arrested people they found outside the Kmart and a nearby Sonic Drive-In restaurant.

 Many of those arrested told officers they were customers at the Kmart or the restaurant, but they still were charged with trespassing and curfew violations. The charges later were dropped and 13 police supervisors were suspended with pay as the Police Department launched the largest internal investigation in its history.

 Some of those arrested are seeking millions of dollars in damages from the city of Houston.

 Charges were not pursued against the other 11 supervisors, prosecutor Tommy LaFon said Friday. They will remain on suspension until the police internal investigation is completed, possibly at the end of January, HPD spokesman Robert Hurst said.

 Aguirre and Wenzel, who have served in the department for 23 and 26 years, respectively, will remain suspended until after they have been tried, Hurst said.

They could not comment on the indictments because of a Police Department gag order, Yates said. Both planned to turn themselves in and post bail Friday evening, he said.

Each faces a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $4,000 fine if convicted. The case is assigned to state District Judge Carol Davies' court.

 Aguirre and Wenzel are the second- and third-ranking officers in the department to be charged with crimes this year. In a separate case involving Aguirre, Police Chief C.O. Bradford was indicted and goes to trial in January on a charge of aggravated perjury.

 Aguirre accused Bradford of lying under oath while testifying in a May disciplinary hearing about Aguirre, who had been reprimanded for using foul language with his subordinates.

 A county grand jury concluded that Bradford had testified falsely that he had not called subordinates names in meetings. An assistant chief stated during the disciplinary hearing that Bradford had called him an offensive name.

Bradford has been relieved of duty with pay pending the outcome of the case. Aggravated perjury is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

 Yates, who is on retainer with the police union to represent Aguirre and Wenzel, has contended that Aguirre was targeted for punishment because of his accusations against Bradford.

 Marticiuc, the union president, on Friday accused the district attorney's office of culpability in the Kmart arrests. He said Wenzel informally told Edward Porter, of the district attorney's public integrity unit, about the plans for the raid and Porter did not object.

 "Wenzel and Porter did have lunch that day (of the raid). They did not discuss the raid," Rosenthal said. "Mr. Porter knows more than anybody around here that you cannot arrest people without probable cause."
   

 




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